Awfully good: The Messthetics charm Jub Jub’s in Reno

Tahoe Onstage

The Messthetics Brendan Canty touring the west side of the Mississippi for the first time in 20 years.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage photos

Last Wednesday, Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor in Reno featured three very different musical experiences.

The first was a performance by Reno’s Pink Awful. Most of their songs are hauntingly beautiful. Ashley Costelloe’s voice is gravely and powerful.

The venue was just way too hot, but sounded great. Most of the early attendees at the warehouse-sized venue were seated and hidden in the corners. What’s up with that?

Costelloe puts out so much contagious energy. The conviction is instantly felt. Between songs, she drank tea like a good singer. She acknowledged the headliners, The Messthetics, through bated breath. She professed the influence they’ve had on their music and approach.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Ashley Costelloe of Pink Awful.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

She also took some stage time to address sexual violence awareness. She said it’s more common than you think and you should always believe survivors

They ended their set singing a round together in harmony as the music cut out.

Bryan McPherson took the stage next. He was joined by only his guitar, engaging songs and East-Coast banter. He started with erupting praise for the openers.

“I like to call them Pink ‘Really Good’,” McPherson said.

Tony Contini / Tahoe OnstageHe pounded through emotional songs about family and friends he’s lost. He also found lots of time to banter with another East-Coaster in the audience in that ever-abrasive East Coast way. That will be the last time I use that word, I promise.

The Messthetics are 2/4th of the punk/hardcore/reggae powerhouse Fugazi.

Drummer Brendan Canty started the show with an emotional soliloquy, confessing he hasn’t toured on this side of the Mississippi in 20 years.

“We have a lot of memories in this town,” Canty said. “I love you guys.”

He seemed truly affected by the tour’s end. It’s impressive to do what you love in front of people through multiple iterations.

Canty and bassist Joe Lally are extremely complimentary and in sync. They provide an impressive rhythm section for any vocalist, but The Messthetics don’t want a singer.

In an interview, Lally said the idea for the band was prompted after getting worn down by writing songs around lyrics. Vocals are replaced by Anthony Pirog’s controlled, expressive guitar playing.

The paced, driving bass lines and exciting drum fills are entertaining enough. The often insane guitar noodling and looping takes the music to fresh territory.

They played the first track off their self-titled album, “Mythomania,” a bona fide hit. The time changes in the song and throughout the set allow the trio to switch from atmospheric beauty to mosh-inducing punk with knee-jerk changes.

Toward the end, they took it down a notch and it hit the spot after a busy day of work. Their ethereal turns are worthy of a soundtrack to a show about space.

Three completely different performers took the stage, but it somehow fit perfectly.

— Tony Contini

The Messthetics

Pink Awful

About Tony Contini

Photographer and journalist Tony Contini graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in art photography. He loves working with bands and telling stories. Photography portfolio:

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